Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Let’s get one thing straight: the Guy Ritchie/Madonna marriage was always a mis-match.
Ritchie, the well-heeled movie-maker among a thousand Brit movie-makers. Madonna, the single most important influence on popular culture since Elvis.
No amount of tootling around London in a Mini Cooper, wearing Burberry caps and going for a pint of ale down The Dog and Duck was going to bring Madonna down to the same level as her hubby. Yes, it brought mega-stardom within touching distance of Ritchie’s slick London set — Wossy, Mossy and, er, Jason Statham — but that wasn’t what it was really all about.
It was about love. No one can deny the genuineness of that emotion in that relationship. One only has to listen to her album American Life, released when they were still very much together, to realise that.
Sadly, as is so often the case, it wasn’t enough.
Celebrity comment in Britain has reached new levels of absurdity since news broke that the Madonna marriage had imploded.
Where else but here would they think that ‘living in Madonna’s shadow’ was somehow unfair to the talent of Guy Ritchie? Where but here would getting to sleep with Madonna not be regarded as sufficient compensation for any other form of discomfort that one’s life might bring?
This is a megastar that is stalked the world over by the sane and lunatic alike, such is the undeniable power of this woman’s persona, sexual mythology and legendary status.
In terms of being an equal partner, Guy Ritchie was certainly a step up from Carlos Leon, the father of Madonna’s first child, Lourdes. But that’s a step up, no more than that.
His job, when he married Madonna, was to be Mr Madonna. That was going to be his role whether he accepted it or not. He could either do it willingly, have it forced upon him or abandon it, and we now know what has happened.
What bit of that did Mr Ritchie now understand? Millions of women have to put up with the ‘career needs’ of their dull husbands, setting their own ambitions aside to service the status quo.
That was never going to happen with Madonna. Never. If her entire career meant anything, it was that it wasn’t going to happen to her. She was not going to be ‘’er indoors’, she ‘who must be obeyed’ or ‘the little woman’ of British popular culture.
The idea that she would be expected to alter her career in order not to make Guy feel bad about his, is just insanity, nor would it be expected if the gender roles were reversed. The spin emerging from Ritchie’s London chums currently is as much a lament for their own loss — they won’t be able to count the Queen of Everything as an acquaintance any longer — as it is a plucky defence of a small-scale Brit movie-maker.
So, the volleys heading in Madge’s direction have all been entirely predictable.
She’s getting on a bit; she’s obsessed with being fit and young-looking; she’s cold; she’s robotic; she’s controlling. Basically, it’s the old story: all the caricatures of the successful woman.
A woman is not supposed to be as powerful as Madonna. They are meant to be Pixies like Kylie or eyecandy like Kelly or wives that take back cheating husbands like Cheryl or human wrecks like Amy Winehouse.
What’s made Madonna so distinctive is the fact that she is the boss of her life.
And the media just can’t get to grips with that. Which isn’t surprising because the media is still run by portly middle-aged men.
Powerful woman? Bring out the rehab photos. Controlling woman? Bring out the pics of her falling out of a nightclub at 3am. Famous mother? Publish the pictures of her speeding with a child in the car.
Sadly, Madonna has provided none of the above. Instead, we have someone who genuinely is in charge and that, to this day, is not the norm among the female ‘celebrities’ that the British media most adore.
They like their powerful women to be ‘feminine’, when what they really mean is weak. Somehow they want all the strength to be a pretence. But if there is one person that isn’t going to apply to, then that’s Madonna.
She is still bucking the trends. She is no doubt despondent that the marriage she tried to make work has failed.
But she’ll just get on with the show!